Thursday, June 4, 2015

Meet the Journalist: Lydia Perović

Lydia Peroviić by Veronika Roux. © 

Lydia Perović has written long-form journalism, interviews, and essays for Canadian, American and UK media since 2001, including The Believer, The Awln + 1, Listen, openDemocracy, Xtra!, Opera Canada, C Magazine and One Hour Empire. She grew up in Montenegro in the former Yugoslavia, moved to Belgrade to pursue a university degree in Politics, then to Nova Scotia in 1999 to complete her MA (Political Theory). Perović has been living in Toronto since 2005. Her first novel, Incidental Music, came out in 2012 and was a 2013 Lambda Literary Finalist. Perović's novella, Miserere Paris, will be published in 2016 by the Esplanade Books imprint of Véhicule Press

Lydia blogs about opera at Definitely The Opera. Find her on the Twitter @DundasKeele

1. Who is your favorite hero/heroine of fiction? Why?

Let me do a process of elimination. I like the main women of [Proust's] La Recherche—Gilberte, smarter than the narrator himself; Albertine, elusive and opaque in everything except in her lesbian desire; Oriane de Guermantes, a total star—but they’re described and dissected from the outside. Margaret and Helen of [Forster's] Howards End are exquisite, but the book is so damn beastly to its one lumpen woman, Mrs. Bast, that I can’t forgive it. Woolf’s Orlando is interesting, but much too aristocratic. Bradley of Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince and Charles of The Sea, The Sea are obsessed with women who don’t want them—therefore, my brothers—but they have too much power and the world is too pliable under their pressure—therefore, distant. 

So my answer is Jane Eyre. I was never a big reader of the Brontes, but this was a lucky stumble-upon. It’s her integrity and her determination that charmed me the most. Even homelessness is endurable -- you just press on. There’s a hint of female picaresque in JE—the genre female characters are rarely given. 

2. Who is your favorite character in opera? Why? 

That’s also a crowded field, Susanna, Don Giovanni, Brunnhilde, Charpentier’s Médée, and a whole army of pants roles. But only one must be chosen, so: Alcina. Endlessly charismatic. Too much power, both earthly and shamanic. Deadly beautiful arias. Yet crumbles when she can’t control her lover any more.

3. The quality you most admire in a writer?     

In writers in the ‘realist’ tradition: psychological complexity. Psychobabble comes really easy to all of us! Media debris too. Not to mention Hollywood. So to find somebody who managed to avoid  those influences in their writing is always cause for celebration.

In all other kinds of writers: originality, the boldness of the voice. Unexpected perspectives and topics. Being overambitious and failing is always better than competently swimming the familiar seas. 

4. What is the oddest performance you have ever experienced?

Toss up between Chinese opera karaoke in a gym, Balkan turbo folk in any form, and a cellist with the TSO who played her solo clad in an extremely mini skirt and extremely high platform shoes. (Cello itself is obscene enough instrument, no need for stripper chic, I thought, instead of listening.)

5. What's the last non-work-related book you read that stopped you in your tracks?

Jim Crace’s Being Dead. A novel of two decomposing corpses.

Or, to end on a more cheerful note, Susan S. Lanser’s The Sexuality of History: Modernity and the Sapphic, 1565-1830, which shows that women have always been up to no good with each other, and that this helped modernity onto the historical stage. A total joy of a book.